easiersaidthandone: The Curse of Too Much Mail
The details vary, but every now and then you'll get a message from a donor that goes something like this:
Aliens from the Quador Galaxy are taking over America and trying to socialize my Medicare. Unless you take a public stand against the aliens, I will never send you another donation, and I'll tell all my many friends not to give either!
It's no big deal. You just chalk it up to "it takes all kinds" and go on with your work. After all, as in any group of people, a small number of donors are going to be a bit unhinged. They're entitled to their opinions, but we all know better than to enter their world.
So imagine an organization that responded to an alien-invasion letter like this:
● Apologize to the writer for our lack of attention to this serious matter.
● Launch a media campaign calling attention to our opposition to the invasion.
● Change our fundraising messaging to include the fact that we don't approve of the alien invasion.
You'd probably think the organization was a few clowns short of a circus. Even more so than the letter-writer. Right?
Unfortunately, this scenario isn't as far-fetched as it should be. There's another type of message from donors that's a bit more common than the alien-invasion type of message — but nearly as counterfactual. And this message throws many nonprofits into costly tailspins. I'm talking messages like this:
Stop sending me so much mail! You're annoying me and wasting money! I'll never send you a red cent again!
This message can cause many organizations to spring into action: They apologize profusely (and sometimes publicly) for mailing too much. They slash their mailing schedules, eliminating impacts right and left. They even change their fundraising styles, making them more circumspect and tentative, hinting at need instead of actually asking. The reason organizations might treat these two complainers so differently is this: With the alien-invasion guy, nobody buys the factual premise of the complaint (I hope). But the too-much-mail complainer? She's articulating something many suspect to be true. She's confirming a fear that fundraising eventually alienates not only her but everyone else too.